We cruised overnight from Hilo around to Kailua-Kona and had our only stop where we had to use a tender service to go ashore. We’d read that this could be a bit of an issue on the Pride of America with several claims around the Internet from people who weren’t able to get into Kona until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. With this in mind we were downstairs and ready to join the line for our tender pass at 7am but there was nothing much in the way of a line, a few people around but it was not a problem and we got a ticket for the 8am tender. I was so relieved, I don’t care if it makes me seem like a dork, I was nervous we’s miss out on Kona altogether!
Anyway, we got into Kailua-Kona by about 8:30am, arranged to rent a double scooter for the day (we did this because we weren’t planning on travelling too far) and looked at the map for somewhere close for breakfast. I spotted The Big Island Grill which I’d read about and we were only a couple of blocks away so we headed straight there. I’m quite the aficionado of the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch but I’ve never had, and always wanted to try, a Loco Moco.
Loco Moco is a very serious local dish. We probably should have shared but we didn’t! I ordered the hamburger patty and Todd ordered the chicken katsu and they both came on white rice topped with two eggs and brown gravy. Serious right? But delicious! And service was good, the coffee was very good and was promptly refilled.
After we’d fuelled up we jumped onto the scooter and made our first stop at Hulihe’e Palace. Once a summer vacation home for Hawaiian royalty, it is now a museum showcasing Victorian artefacts from the era of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi’olani. The Palace is filled with completely gorgeous koa wood furniture and we had a great chat about the site with one of the Daughters of Hawaii members, no photos inside the museum but very much well worth the look.
Next stop was the Magic Sands Beach at La’aloa Bay. This place has earned such a nickname from the surf which quite literally pulls the sand from the beach periodically exposing the lava rocks. It’s an absolutely beautiful spot, we just had a short stop and watched a few bodyboarders for a short while before continuing on to Kahaluu Beach Park. We rented some snorkelling gear and were given a short lecture on not touching the coral (I love Hawaii. Nobody cares about you and whether you get hurt but damage coral or get within 10ft of a sea turtle? Don’t even think about it.) Then we had to get in the water which was a lot more difficult than it sounds! The beach is really rocky and all the rocks are very slippery, plus you’re juggling snorkelling gear. Anyway, we made it in and as soon as we made it into slightly deeper territory we were afforded with incredible up close and personal encounters with amazing coral, a myriad of fish and a few super cute sea turtles.
Time flew out there and before we knew it our couple of hours with the gear was up and we headed in. We lounged on the sand for a bit and by then it was mid afternoon so we went for a short ride around the coast just past the Sheraton Kona Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa then turned ourselves around and made our way via a quick photo stop at Kona’s iconic St Peter’s By The Sea Church to Da Poke Shack for another Hawaiian delicacy I had yet to try – poke. In 2014 a very scientific list by Yelp named Da Poke Shack as The Top Place to Eat in America, so of course we had to do it! I had a poke bowl with Wet Hawaiian and the Garlic Shrimp with beans and it was ono-licious!
Filled to the brim with delicious food and happy memories we rode back to town, dropped our scooter off and then to top off an amazing day we saw dolphins while we were in the tender on the way back to the ship!